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The presence of immigrants in local politics is well below their demographic weight in Spanish society

Santiago Pérez-Nievas, Carles Pamies and Marta Paradés, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM); Daniela Vintila, CEDEM, Université de Liège

Spain is one of the countries that receives most immigrants in Europe. However, very little is known about the political integration of this group. Using data from the project ¿Ayuntamientos Plurales? La representación política de los inmigrantes en España, this article shows that very few immigrants – meaning both first-generation migrants and their children – are nominated as candidates for municipal elections in Spain, and that even fewer are elected as councillors. Political parties are reluctant to include people with a migrant background on their lists of candidates, although some are more open in this respect than others. Spanish city councils rarely reflect the diversity of origins of the population, although some immigrant communities have greater electoral potential and easier access to public office than others.
Key points
  • 1
       The presence of immigrants in Spanish society does not guarantee their access to local politics. Even in municipalities with high concentration of immigrant-origin residents, very few migrants are nominated as candidates for municipal elections.
  • 2
       Different groups of foreign residents in Spain do not have the same political rights at the local level. Those from EU and some non-EU (mostly Latin American) countries have the right to vote in municipal elections, although only EU nationals also have the right to stand as candidates. Other groups, such as Moroccans, continue to face strong barriers for accessing public office.
  • 3
       Despite the slight increase in the number of immigrant-origin candidates in 2015 compared to 2011, all migrant groups are still clearly under-represented in local politics. However, those originating from the EU-14 (prior to the 2004 enlargement) and Latin America achieve higher levels of political representation.
  • 4
       By gender, there are more female than male candidates among EU-14, Latin American and Romanian migrants, although only Latin American women maintain this over-representation when it comes to being elected.
  • 5
       By parties, the left-wing Popular Unity coalitions formed for the 2015 elections were the most inclusive, as they returned more immigrant-origin candidates and elected councillors. There are no major differences between the two main parties, although the PSOE is slightly more inclusive than the PP, especially when it comes to elected councillors.
Even in municipalities with a high concentration of migrants, very few of them enter local politics
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